Spiro Hall 2, Wagner College
631 Howard Avenue (1 Campus Road), Grymes Hill
Staten Island, NY 10301
Dr. Bridget Buxton of the University of Rhode Island will present this lecture. From the death of Alexander the Great to the fall of Cleopatra VII, the rise and fall of empires and the course of Mediterranean civilization was decided at the helms of gigantic warships, unrivalled in size and power by anything built in Europe until the modern age. This so-called ‘big ship’ phenomenon lasted more than three centuries, making it arguably the longest and most destructive technological arms race in European history. Contests between big ship fleets were a critical factor in Rome’s conquest of the Mediterranean over the ruins of half a dozen other great naval powers: Carthage, Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleukid Syria, Antigonid Macedon, Mithridates, Rhodes, Pergamon, and finally even her own rival warlords. Remarkably, we know almost nothing about these Dreadnoughts of the Hellenistic age, and only slightly more about the land-based infrastructure built to support or to protect against them. This lecture presents recent archaeological explorations by the Maritime Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority in and around the ancient port of Akko (Acre-Ptolemais) which are bringing us closer to the elusive goal of capturing a ‘big ship’, learning the long-lost secrets of their design, and understanding the critical role they played in the Great Power contests of the Hellenistic Age.
Bridget Buxton is an assistant professor of History at the University of Rhode Island and a member of URI’s Archaeology Group. She obtained her Ph.D. in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley on a Fulbright, and her MA in Classical Studies (with distinction) from Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. Her archaeological field experience includes both land and underwater projects in Greece, Israel, Turkey, the Black Sea, and in her homeland of New Zealand. Since 2006 she has been involved in deep water projects under the direction of Prof. Robert Ballard of the University of Rhode Island and Prof. Shelley Wachsmann of Texas A&M Nautical Archaeology Program, and more recently joined a collaboration with the Israel Maritime Antiquities Unit. She obtained certification as an AAUS scientific diver and NAUI assistant instructor qualifications through Berkeley’s scientific diving program in 2000. Her main areas of interest in addition to underwater archaeology include Roman and Hellenistic history and archaeology, and archaeological ethics. She held the McCann-Taggart lectureship in underwater archaeology for 2009-2010, and is currently beginning a third national lecture tour for the Archaeological Institute of America, speaking on underwater archaeology and the Roman emperor Augustus. Her book “the Augustan Republic” retells the story of Rome’s critical decade 6 BCE – 4 CE from the perspective of archaeology, and is currently under contract with Cambridge University Press.